When the Ravens shook up their training camp schedule this offseason, coach John Harbaugh knew there’d be days like Tuesday, practices where the coaching staff’s stated goal — “Be fast and be perfect” — applied as much to the tedium of special teams execution as to the thrill of 11-on-11 work.
Tuesday’s practice, carried out in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts, was a changeup in both pace and purpose after Monday’s first padded practice. The highlight of the first hour of work might’ve been a 55-yard coffin-corner punt from rookie Jordan Stout. The team’s quarterbacks and a handful of veterans didn’t take the practice field until about 2:05 p.m., 30 minutes after practice was scheduled to start. A handful of starters were missing, either taking the day off or nursing minor injuries.
Even when the Ravens’ offense and defense met on the field for the day’s first 11-on-11 session, the action was limited to a series of running plays, executed behind an offensive line missing three starters: left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Morgan Moses. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s job in the Ravens’ first team period was to either hand the ball off to a rotation of running backs, which he did nine times, or keep it himself, which he did once. Not until later did he have to worry about dropping back to pass.
“A little different tempo,” Harbaugh said. “You saw a practice that you really haven’t seen here in training camp in the past. So I think we got a lot done from an execution standpoint. It was hot. It heated up. The guys handled it well.”
With J.K. Dobbins (knee) and Gus Edwards (knee) stuck on the physically-unable-to-perform list, the Ravens’ running back depth chart might not take shape until after next week’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans. Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie earned most of the repetitions with the Ravens’ first-string offense in offseason workouts, but their competition has only intensified in the weeks since.
Justice Hill, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, has shown good cut-back ability and soft hands in practice. Corey Clement, who joined the team before camp, seems well suited to the team’s downhill running game. Nate McCrary impressed enough in last year’s preseason to land a spot on the Denver Broncos’ roster.
“When the real football comes on,” Harbaugh said, “I think that’s when you find out about the running backs.”
The Ravens’ bridge from their run period to their first passing period Tuesday was, naturally, a run-pass-option period.
Other than a fumble on a mesh-point exchange, backup quarterback Tyler Huntley handled the proceedings with precision. Unofficially, he went 5-for-5, spreading the ball around on quick hitters, including one that tight end Tony Poljan brought in with one hand.
The Ravens were among the NFL’s best RPO teams last year, though their usage lagged behind that of other teams with dual-threat quarterbacks. Coordinator Greg Roman’s offense showed seemingly new wrinkles Tuesday, with more targets available for Huntley out wide.
“I think all those things, really, to be honest with you, have been in the playbook,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got all those RPO plays in there. We probably haven’t tapped into them all. The principles are all the same. The routes kind of tweak a little bit. We have been a big RPO team. … I thought it was pretty well executed, and part of it was for our defense, too, because we’re going to see some of that stuff early in the season. We’re learning. It’s tough stuff to defend. It’s challenging.”
Hand it to him
After one of his final routes of the afternoon, Rashod Bateman walked back to the Ravens’ offense with his helmet pushed up, arms akimbo. There was a lot for the second-year wide receiver to process.
Jackson, who finished 15-for-19 in 11-on-11 work Tuesday, had opened his final team period with a deep shot to Bateman. The pass was thrown into double coverage, if not triple coverage — safeties Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams and cornerback Marlon Humphrey were all in the neighborhood — but only Bateman had eyes on the ball. When he rose for the pass, unbothered, it glanced off his hands and skipped onto the grass.
A few minutes later, Bateman ran a deep crossing route that got Tony Jefferson’s attention. As Bateman ran under Jackson’s pass, Jefferson played the ball perfectly from behind, getting a hand on the pass before it reached Bateman, then leaving his feet for the tipped ball.
It was the first interception of camp for Jackson, whose last three picks in team drills, dating to mandatory minicamp, have all ended in Jefferson’s hands. The veteran safety, who impressed in his return to Baltimore last season, is vying for a roster spot in a deep safety room.
“It was a great play,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a big-play opportunity for the offense. I don’t know how he got his hand on that ball. That was great in and of itself. Then he finds a way to tip it to himself and catch it and make a diving catch. And then he got up and ran.”
- Outside linebacker Vince Biegel continued his strong camp, beating right tackle Daniel Faalele with a speed rush in one 11-on-11 period and punching the ball out of rookie wide receiver Makai Polk’s hands — and out of bounds — in another.
- Defensive lineman Broderick Washington had a tackle for loss in the Ravens’ run-only period, slicing through the offensive line on a zone-running play.
- Wide receiver Binjimen Victor had his best day of camp, connecting with Jackson for three catches, including two in the final team period.
- Rookie outside linebacker Zakoby McClain had an interception near the end of practice, reaching up to snag a pass over the middle.
- Stout, who also kicked at Penn State, ended practice early with a confident-looking 28-yard field goal.
- In addition to Zeitler and Moses, five Ravens who have been cleared to practice missed Tuesday’s session: wide receiver Devin Duvernay (thigh), tight end Nick Boyle, offensive lineman Patrick Mekari, inside linebacker Patrick Queen and defensive back Brandon Stephens. Duvernay also missed Monday’s session with what Harbaugh called a “minor thing,” which he suffered in Saturday’s open practice. Other players were held out for veteran days.